To prepare for this, I created 4 experimental conditions in terms of what I am injecting in the fly’s food: bitter gourd juice only, sugar only, bitter gourd and sugar, and a control condition. I had to dilute the serving sizes with water since a fly’s serving size is way smaller than a human’s.
“Mom, I need cigarettes”
“You need WHAT? YOU MAY NOT BE SMOKING”
“Mom, it's for a science project”
Back to the drawing board I went.
At this point, It was the day before our first lab day, so I opted for putting nicotine in the fly food. This is where my mom came in. After a few minutes of discussion, she obliged. It turned out that there was a nicotine solution in the lab on Thursday, meaning I didn’t need the cigarettes. This was probably for the better, mostly because I have no clue how to get the nicotine out of one...
Troubleshooting these problems makes me even more excited to see how my experiment turns out. I don’t know if the nicotine will have an effect at all, or if the 10x solution is lethal, or how closely this would simulate humans, but I can’t wait to find that out. As I head into my first data collection day, I can address issues that come up, solve problems I don’t even know exist yet, and continue to refine my project until the final presentation.
You may ask, what about my predictions? I think that my flies will begin to produce very rapidly and that the offspring with have developmental defects such as slow development or altered behaviors. I do not have any data to share yet but I will soon.
My collective experience here at TRIP has been very different than what I expected and very different than the last summer program I did at Temple University. The days are not too long which is a plus, and we are able to go get lunch which is really nice and refreshing. My favorite part is how there is always something hands-on for me to do. I have been learning a lot so far and I hope that continues to happen as the program progresses.
Antioxidants have been shown to be able to protect against free radical damage in cells, and protect them from some types of damage. In my Independent Project I will be looking at which types of antioxidants reduce damage done to the eyes by blue light. In my project I will be exposing adult flies to blue light, but some of the flies will have certain antioxidants in their food. I will have three separate antioxidants, Holy Basil, Selenium, and Vitamin E, and some containers have combinations of two of these antioxidants, and one vial has all three combined. So, while the flies are being exposed to this blue light they will be ingesting antioxidants to hopefully combat the damage. There is one control group that will not be ingesting antioxidants, but will be exposed to the blue light, and there is another control group that will not be eating antioxidants nor will it be exposed to blue light.
Also, I can sometimes be slower than people when doing projects, and I try my best to try and keep up with everybody while not lowering the focus and precision I use when doing the projects. However, one day, I happened to go over the time allotted, and I needed to put the drugs in the fly food, and then put in the flies. Yet, there were lots of people who stayed as long as they could to help me finish up, and with the help of everybody I was able to finish my work that day even though I still went over the time.
Here is my presentation where I explain in more detail the findings of my project:
Moving on, I have loved each and every moment of TRIP. A friend of mine recently asked me how my July went. My response? I told him that every part of July that involved TRIP was fantastic, great, and amazing--everything else was was just alright. Coming into the program, I was extremely apprehensive that I would be placed in an environment where everyone around me would understand things much more than I; ultimately, however, I’ve come to learn so much from this experience. Not only did I gain basic lab skills (micropipetting, sorting flies, making stock solutions, etc.), but I also faced many, many challenges. The best example I can think of is my failed courtship project, which showed me that even though I ended up doing something completely different than I had wanted, I didn’t feel dissatisfied with my work--in fact, I felt even more motivated to do something that worked.
The “failure” didn’t prove to be a roadblock, but rather a detour.
In addition, Dr. Amanda Purdy, Mr. Robert Herbstritt and all of the TAs helped challenge and push me to think outside of the box, to problem solve, and to set my own standards high. If it wasn’t for them, I do not think I would have given a presentation as confidently as I did. Finally, my classmates, from both sessions, were extremely supportive as well! While we may have not been the most talkative group, we all were very ready to help the other out if need be, which was a very nice environment to be exposed to.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my blogs, I hope you’ve enjoyed them!
The larval locomotion assay showed that an increase in caffeine also produces an increase in activity. I was surprised to find that the high caffeine vials (containing the human equivalent of 8 cups of coffee) did not result in dead flies, but live, active flies. The negative geotaxis assay (which tests adult activity) also provided results but not without obstacles. I had to change the gender that I used from females to males because I did not have enough females to complete the assay, but this also meant that I would not be able to use the data I collected the previous time to compare. Unfortunately, testing addiction did not come as easily. I was unable to gather data from the capillary feeding assay because the capillary tubes were too big. Most of the time that I was working with this assay, I was trying to figure out how the assay could provide more accurate data. Although these failures were frustrating, they helped me learn how to work through challenges and gave me a greater understanding about what I was testing.
I am so grateful to have participated in TRIP this summer. Though it did include a lot of hard work, I am glad that this is how I chose to spend my summer. TRIP taught me how to overcome obstacles, various forms of communicating, how to manage my time, different ways of looking at and solving a problem, how to push myself, and what it is like to work in a lab. I was able to experience the joy of having an assay work out, but also work through struggles when another assay did not work. If you’re thinking about applying to TRIP, I highly suggest it. I loved the environment that it provided and all of the friends that I made. I was surprised that despite coming from all over and being of different ages, we were able to talk openly with each other about advice, troubles with our projects, and about common interests. Though we have only known each other for 5 weeks, it seems like I have known them for years. I entered TRIP thinking I was just going to do a project and learn about flies but I did not expect to leave with an understanding of how to work through failure, many applications that I can use outside of TRIP, and the opportunity to meet great people.
I set up 4 vials: one with no dye, and three with various colors (Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #5). When I tested the memory assay on all of these, the control larvae passed with flying colors (pun intended) while the color-fed larvae wandered towards the banana side and into the middle of the test plate. Given TRIP’s succinct schedule, there are many factors I am still eager to test, but I do not have enough time.
I scaled down the maximum dose of dyes for children 2-5 y/o into a fly dose, but this measurement can be tweaked to test the effects of less/more dye in the diet. The specific dyes I used can also be switched out for other artificial dyes. I tested the effect on larvae, but adult flies may also have a reaction. I am also interested in more extensive neural effects that dyes may have, such as energy and aggression levels.
TRIP Initiative has not only given me valuable learning experiences in a lab that I would not get in my typical classroom setting lectures, but has also given me an opportunity to explore research as a future career. Before TRIP, I did not see myself being interested in research at all-- I saw myself being in a career that only focused on healthcare. Although I still want to go into a healthcare profession, TRIP opened my eyes to incorporating research in my future scientific explorations and encouraged me to branch outside of my comfort zone. Overall, TRIP was an excellent, informative program that allowed me to independently focus on projects I found genuinely interesting.
Throughout my experiment, I fasted my fruit flies every day and then conducted assays that allowed me to assess female fertility, embryonic viability, and overall health. At the end of my experiment, my data suggested that intermittent fasting negatively affect female fertility and decreased overall health. Although I was not necessarily surprised with this outcome, the process of doing research was exciting, and something I was able to do almost completely independently.
Through the social space assay, I measured how close the flies stayed to each other when allowed to move freely in a small chamber. My results surprised me: the flies in the control vial stayed the farthest apart, while those in both the less crowded and more crowded vials stayed closer together. This result ran counter to my hypothesis, and is quite surprising besides: apparently, the flies were least happy and sociable at a middle density. I am not sure why this result occurred, but my best educated guess was that the flies are comfortable when they have plenty of space, and therefore happier and more sociable. However, when placed in crowded environments, the flies become accustomed to crowds and choose to remain close together even when they’re able to spread out more.
Those are my results, but I’m sure you’re wondering how measuring fruit fly anxiety has any practical purpose at all. As I’ve mentioned before, fruit flies have emotions like humans do, so they are a valuable proxy for quickly gathering data to guide future experiments. Currently, millions of people live in crowded conditions around the world, from refugee camps to major cities, but only limited research has been done on what effects, if any, overcrowding has on the physical and mental health of those affected.
Research in fruit flies could be used as a springboard to direct future studies into this potential public health concern.
These weeks have gone by quickly, but I’ll certainly make use of the skills and connections I made here for a long time in the future.
Stay tuned for… well, for the next group of intelligent, talented students who will take up the TRIP mantle starting in the spring. They might not cram flies into tiny spaces, but they’ll find some equally interesting ways to experiment on hapless fruit flies.